Activist and journalist Barrett Brown was sentenced to five years in prison.
Nikki Loehr—freebarrettbrown.org
By Denver Nicks
January 23, 2015

Barrett Brown, the activist, journalist and one-time associate of hacktivist collective Anonymous who has become an online cause célèbre, isn’t going to let prison silence him.

He was sentenced to five years in prison Thursday for threatening a federal agent on YouTube and interfering with a federal investigation related to the 2011 hack of the private intelligence firm Stratfor. On Friday, he told TIME that he planned to use his sentence to document American prison life from the inside.

“There’s things that go on there that they don’t want to talk about,” Brown told TIME in an interview from prison Friday, “so this is a great opportunity.”

Brown characterized his sentence as part of a larger problem in the United States of unjust laws and misconduct on the part of prosecutors and law enforcement.

“The prosecutor said one thing that was accurate—that I don’t have respect for the laws in this country,” he told TIME. “We have a situation in which the only way we can survive as a free nation is if our laws are not enforced.”

Brown, 33, was sentenced Thursday to five years and three months in prison and ordered to pay $890,000 in restitution and fines on charges stemming from his connection to the hack of private intelligence firm Stratfor in 2011. During the prosecution, he drew support from journalist Glenn Greenwald, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and liberal philosopher Noam Chomsky among others on a website called “Free Barrett Brown.”

In a statement released to journalists immediately after his sentence was handed down, Brown sardonically hailed the ruling as “Good news!”

”The U.S. government decided today that because I did such a good job investigating the cyber-industrial complex, they’re now going to send me to investigate the prison-industrial complex,” he said, thanking the government for providing “free food, clothes and housing as I seek to expose wrongdoing by the Bureau of Prisons officials and staff and otherwise report on news and culture in the world’s greatest prison system.”

Brown was arrested in 2012 and initially charged with aggravated identity theft and, most notably, with trafficking in stolen goods because he posted a link online to information others had pilfered in the Stratfor hack, including internal emails and credit card numbers. The latter charge drew widespread condemnation from civil rights groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which called the charge “a serious threat to press freedom” in a statement condemning the sentence. The stolen goods and identity theft charges were later dropped and Brown pleaded to three lesser crimes: accessory after the fact, interfering with an FBI investigation and threatening an FBI agent. The last charge resulted from YouTube rants a visibly distraught Brown posted that included threats to an FBI agent investigating Brown and his mother. The bulk of his sentence is a result of that threat.

In a statement to the judge before his sentence was handed down, Brown called the videos “idiotic” and expressed contrition over what he characterized as a lapse in judgment. “Although I made them in a manic state brought on by sudden withdrawal from Paxil and Suboxone, and while distraught over the threats to prosecute my mother, that’s still me in those YouTube clips talking nonsense about how the FBI would never take me alive,” Brown told the court in a prepared statement. In that statement and in conversation with TIME Friday, Brown accused prosecutors and law enforcement of repeatedly committing perjury over the course of his case.

Including the more than two years Brown has spent in prison since his arrest he could serve an additional three years, though he is reported to be up for supervised release after one year.

“I’m a very monastic individual anyway. I spend a lot of time reading and writing,” Brown told TIME. “People don’t want to be in prison of course but some people benefit from it. Dostoyevsky. Solzhenitsyn. I’m one of those people.”

Contact us at editors@time.com.

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